Hermann Carr's contributions to Springfield honored across the city

Lifelong Springfield resident Hermann Carr had a servant’s heart that is now being celebrated by both the City of Springfield and the Clark County Historical Society.

Carr’s careers as a dedicated Springfield Police Division officer and a self-taught local magician are part of the fiber of what make Springfield “The Champion City” – a Champion for fellow community members, a Champion for innovation, a Champion for celebrating homegrown talent.

Carr’s legacy as a local magician is being celebrated through memorabilia on display at the Historical Society in the Heritage Center at an exhibit that opened this week.

“We collect all of Clark County history, so we try to tell the stories of every day people who made a difference in all different ways, which could include teachers or medical professionals or anyone,” says Natalie Fritz, archivist and director of collections outreach and social media for the Historical Society. “We’re here to tell anyone’s stories, so those could be your stories, too.

“Sometimes we take for granted that things that are happening now or recently are just as much a part of local history, too.”

Carr is also being honored with the renaming of a portion of McCreight Avenue as Hermann Carr Way, along which the newly added street signs display both a magician’s hat and a badge to acknowledge the different ways he served his city.

Born and raised in Springfield, Carr found a passion for magic after seeing a magician – Franklin the Great – perform for his third-grade class, says Carr’s oldest son, Clark. Carr assisted during the show, and he was hooked from then on.

“The magician made such an impression on Hermann that after the show he went to his teacher and asked how he could learn more about magic, and the teacher said, ‘My best advice would be to go to the library and read about it,’” Carr’s daughter Marcie Hagler says.

And off he went. He studied, went to shows and worked to learn everything he could about magic.

By the time Carr was in junior high, he was doing shows for nursing home residents, churches and schools, Hagler says.

In eighth grade, Carr met Marcia. While she later would become his wife, during their school years, she became his magician’s assistant.

The two graduated form Springfield High School in 1955, and Carr enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he was stationed in a USO to help provide entertainment to service members.

That same year, Carr returned to Springfield to marry Marcia on Christmas Eve before finishing his time in the Army.

In 1957, Carr enrolled in the police academy to become a Springfield Police Division officer. He started in the traffic unit in 1961 and then moved to a community relations position.

“While he was there, he had a vision. He always loved working with children in general, and he had a vision to create a safely program for children,” Hagler says.

In 1969, Carr established the police division’s Safety City program after visiting another safety town program to get ideas.

“He created his own curriculum and his own format of how it was going to be handled and he had a five-day agenda, including a nice graduation ceremony at the end for all the kids,” Clark says.

Carr proudly ran Safety City for 100s of kids each summer though his retirement in 1988. The program continues today, teaching many kids each summer.

“He had the personality and charisma that the kids were magnetized to,” Clark says. “He had a way of connecting with them.”

That connection is something that was a driver for Carr through the entirety of both his magic and police careers.

“He performed at malls, on TV, at the White House for President Carter,” Hagler says. “People would see him and say, ‘Hey! That’s Officer Carr!’

“He became known as both of them – the magician and the officer – and it was hard to separate.”

Though the Historical Society exhibit will focus mainly on Carr’s career as a magician, the newly renamed portion of McCreight Avenue will celebrate both of his roles.

The exhibit in the Heritage Center is staged in a variety of displays that showcase many of the tricks Carr created himself, for many of which Marcia was his assistant.

Those include what Clark says is called the Hindu Basket, in which Marcia would climb inside before Carr would stick four steel stakes through while Marcia would magically remain unharmed.

“He always loved using our mother in the productions,” Clark says.

The portion of McCreight Avenue from Fountain Avenue to Ferncliff Cemetery was renamed as Hermann Carr Way on Oct. 29.

After Carr died in 2019, the family wanted to honor him in a special way, but waited through the difficulties of Covid-19 in 2020 to get things started.

“We picked that area of McCreight because it has a special significance to Hermann because that was the original route of the Memorial Day parade that Hermann marched in every year for 27 years,” Marcie says. “That was also his final route from Littleton and Rue (Funeral Home and Crematory) to the mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery when he passed.”

Collectively, the family is proud to be able to share their father’s history with younger generations who might not have known him, and they’re happy to inspire happy memories among people whose lives Carr touched.

“This will probably bring some great memories for people because of him. I’m hoping there will be people who say, ‘Oh, I remember him,’ or ‘Oh, I saw him at the fair,” says Fritz, adding that she was excited to add the exhibit using all Carr’s items on loan from the family.
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Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.